Shoot (1976)

The best defense is a good offense...or kill them all and let God sort them out.

The best defense is a good offense...or kill them all and let God sort them out.

Some movies make me want to run out and see everything a director has made. Shoot makes me want to run out and read the books of Douglas Fairbairn. I have no proof that his novels will be as profound as I imagine, call it a mere hunch. I do know that Harvey Hart’s perfunctory style of directing never raises the film to the meditative or thought provoking level that the underlying material deserves.

The story: A group of veterans hunting in the Canadian hills encounter another group of hunters. A tense illogical face-off occurs. A hunter from the other party fires a shot, winging one of the vets. One of the vets returns fire killing a member of the other hunting party. The men disperse. What follows is the real horror.

Rex, the obsessive, self-appointed leader of the vets, intriguingly portrayed Cliff Robertson, convinces his men that they have to prepare themselves for retaliation. Most of the men buy into Rex’s theories, especially when word of the fallen hunter fails to reach the paper and no police reports are filed. Terrified into a state of paranoia, Rex convinces his fellow hunters to that if they ever want to feel secure,  if they ever want to stop worry, if they ever want to be free then they must return to the same hunting grounds, fully armed and ready for a war.

In 1976, the film’s metaphor lent itself to Viet Nam. Today, the film feels more in tune with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or even 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unfortunately, the strength of the the filmmaking never fully examines the aftermath of a violent attack and the response to such an attack. Even with its explosive ending that carries a slightly hypnotic and contemplative quality, Shoot over-steps the moment and adds a dumbed down, to-on-the-nose voice over, making sure that viewer understands the destructive ends of escalated, unsubstantiated fears.

These lofty topics deserve more careful handling. Alas, Hart’s direction carries the baggage of years of television directing. His shots just capture action and his actors are rarely more than vehicles for dialog. Shoot deserves more than a television movie treatment.

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